Everyone knows that when you speak up against a co-worker, for whatever reason, you’re most likely setting yourself up for criticism, scrutiny, or possibly even a fight that could cost you your job.
This is true in most workplaces, but it’s even more complicated when it involves law enforcement.
If this were to actually happen to you, and the stakes could include threats on your life, would you proceed with your cause or just back off to save your own skin?
This is precisely the conundrum that the members of the SVU team faced in this episode.
Things start off with everyone chattering about some life changing news–Benson reveals to her team that Dodds Jr. has decided to leave the unit to go to the joint terrorism team (like his father has wanted for some time), Fin finds out from his son Ken that he’s going to be a grandfather, and Carisi learns that he passed the bar exam.
The good times don’t last though, as Ken tells Fin that his friend Cherise was just raped by a Rikers corrections officer named Gary Munson.
When the team goes to Barba with this news, he remarks that Rikers is where investigations go to die and half-heartedly tells them to drop it.
Benson spins it so that they can investigate inside Rikers, telling prison officials that the team is looking into human trafficking ties that may be originating within the facility.
After finding out that Munson has assaulted several inmates. some many times, the team tries to get the women to give them evidence to bring him down. But the women say that it’s bigger than just Munson and refuse to cooperate with the police.
Just as Cherise is about to leave town in an effort to protect her two young daughters, Benson makes an impassioned plea and talks her into helping trap Munson.
The cops convince Cherise to wear a hidden camera and engage Munson. With Fin following the pair and Benson and Dodds in a van nearby, they watch as Munson pulls her Cherise into a building.
The SVU team can’t see exactly what’s happening, and realizing that this has gone too far, they burst in and grab Munson.
In arraignment, Barba wants Munson held, calling him a dangerous predator, but the judge sets bail instead.
The team goes to Munson’s home and executes an extensive search warrant during which time Benson tries to convince Mrs. Munson, who doesn’t believe her husband committed these crimes, to protect herself from him.
They also go after Munson’s co-worker, a female corrections officer named Wilkins. After some coercion, she spills some details on Munson’s activities, leading the team to a woman who is not an inmate. She admits that Munson has assaulted her recently.
She testifies in front of a grand jury, as does Cerise. Wilkins testifies as well.
Surprisingly, Mrs. Munson gives testimony too, but her goal is to provide an alibi for her husband. Barba puts the kibosh on that with footage and time stamps that show him clearly not where he told his wife he would was at that given time.
With all of this evidence, Barba is convinced that the grand jury will vote to indict, which they do.
Barba is also certain that the indictment will not sit well with members of the police force and other citizens who have a vested interest in the inner-workings of the corrections system.
He’s absolutely correct in this and is immediately threaten by not only uniformed officers but by someone who appears to be a gang member as well, right there on the courthouse steps.
Standing beside the ADA, the rest of the team realizes that they’re in for a war, and sadly, it’s with a whole host of folks, including a large contingent of their brothers in blue.
What will transpire as this situation progresses is yet to be seen as this episode closed with white lettering over a back screen saying that this story is ‘to be continued.’
Previews for the next installment show Officer Munson taking his family hostage with the SVU detectives working to diffuse that situation.
While this is in keeping with this storyline, it’s sort of a nice touch, intentional or unintentional, whichever the case may be, that the episode started out with the big story of Munson – raping inmates – and moves to a more one-on-one situation, clearly showing the range of the SVU squad – that no deviation from the law is acceptable, that they handle it all, from institutional abuse to family justice, from looking out for the incarcerated to protecting children. All are victims and thus fall under the unit’s oath to safeguard those who cannot do it for themselves.
It was also nicely set up that Benson tried to convince Munson’s wife that she needed to protect herself and her kids from him.
It wasn’t that long ago that Olivia herself had to stand by her man Ed as he was accused of something illegal. Of course, the difference here being that Ed wasn’t accused of anything as heinous as actual rape, and he was in fact innocent of the crime he was accused of. None-the-less, that incident with Tucker may have informed Benson about how to handle situations like this going forward – in which there is initially denial, and then the ultimate realization that a loved one may not be the person you think they are.
Clearly, Benson was spot on in warning Munson’s wife to be on guard as things obviously are going to devolve into a dangerous situation for her and her children.
A glimpse at the next episode also shows Dodds taking a bullet (his second, as viewers may recall that he was shot in Chicago while working with CPD. So maybe his dad is right about moving to another unit, for safety purposes….).
What effect does this have on the squad? The fallout for everyone as they deal with the shooting of a fellow officer will no doubt be huge – there will obviously be a lot of pain, some guilt, and second-guessing galore. How can there not be?
How Dodds, Benson, Dodds Sr. and the rest of the team will be initially, and then permanently, affected by what goes down is sure to make for more than a few terribly emotional scenes.
Let’s remember, this is Law & Order: SVU after all, and if we’ve learned anything after 17 seasons, it’s that nothing that happens in the Special Victims Unit is ever easy, and that it’s important to brace yourself for whatever comes next, because it’s sure to be an extreme roller-coaster ride.
The 17th season finale of Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday, May 25th at 9/8c on NBC.